Terry Orlick (2000, p. 47) defines focused connection as “the uninterrupted connection between two things: a cat and a mouse, a performer and his performance, an athlete and her goal”. Weinberg and Gould (2003) feel that focus or concentration is made up of three parts: (a) focusing on the relevant cues in the environment, (b) maintaining attentional focus over time, and (c) having awareness of the situation.
“Focused connection is the most important skill in life because it affects everything— all learning, all performance, all relationships, all joy in life. With a focused connection, everything is possible. Without a focused connection, nothing of value is possible. A focused connection is the difference between a great performance and a poor performance, between really living your life and just dragging yourself through another day. Many opportunities are lost because people are present physically but not mentally.” (Orlick, p. 189)
How well you focus affects all aspects of life. It determines the rate of learning, the quality of learning, the quality of your performance and the quality of your life.
The heart of all sports is to focus on relevant cues. We need to build our focus or concentration skills in order to be able to focus on the relevant cues over time. When we do this our performance improves.
Focus is one of the big four skills that we teach and develop in our mental game coaching. The following exercise is a good start to bringing home to you the importance of focus and the mental game. Take the time to do the paper clip activity and then call Coach Neer and get started on developing your focused connection.
“Only the present shot matters in golf.” – Dr. Patrick Cohn
Paper Clip Activity
The purpose of this exercise is to learn the connection between mind and body. Moving the paper clip with our thoughts actually produces small movements of the muscles in the hand and arm. Repeating this exercise over and over helps to build our powers of focus and concentration. Take time to ponder what this exercise is telling you – is it time to learn how to develop your focus??
Use the diagram to do this exercise. Take an 18” piece of thread with a paper clip tied to the end. Sit down, with your elbow resting on the chair arm, center the paper clip hanging from the thread over the center of the paper at the intersection of the two lines. Then, without moving your arm, fingers, or body, move the paper clip up and down the vertical line, then bring it to a stop over the center, then move it back and forth across the horizontal line. Then, after successfully doing this without moving your hand or fingers, move the paper clip around the circle in a progressively greater arc.
Orlick, T. (2008). In pursuit of excellence (4th ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.